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Scottish Ghosts and Legends

The whole Tayside region abounds in legends. There is, for instance, an interesting Arthurian legend associated with Meigle, where Queen Vanora (also known as Guenevere and Wander) is said to be buried under a mound in the churchyard.

According to Sir Thomas Malory, King Arthur’s nephew, Modred, carried off the queen when King Arthur was at war on the continent. Modred was later defeated by the Picts and Scots, and they imprisoned Queen Vanora in Dunbarre Castle (on Barry Hill, Alyth). Later, she was killed by wild dogs, and buried at Meigle.

The Aberlemno district is steeped in legend, but the legend of Jock Barefut comes from nearby Careston. Jock rashly cut a stick from a famous Spanish, chestnut tree in the court of Careston Castle, near Brechin. The “Tiger Earl” had him hanged from the same tree for his misdeed. Thereupon, strange to say, the tree began to wither and decay. And afterwards Jock’s ghost walked the road between Careston and Finavon. He was a sort of ‘Robin Goodfellow’ or ‘Puck,’ and went in for tricks and roguery.

At Carmyllie there is a legend of a crock of gold and a buried castle. These lie somewhere on Cairnconan. The crock can be located from a distance when the sun shines, but the road leading to it has not so far been found. Another Carmyllie legend concerns the Cauld Stane o’ Crofts. Apparently, when the Cauld Stane hears a cock crow it will turn round three times! This stone (like others elsewhere), slipped from the Deil’s belt as he strode over Carmyllie. Another version says that a witch dropped the stone from her apron.

Kinfauns has an old tale of a gold cradle lost in a loch nearby, and never so far found. Evelick Castle has its romantic story (and song) of Bonnie Leezie Lindsay and her Highland lover.

Right below Dunsinane Hill is the Lang Man’s Grave— marked by a long­shaped stone at the roadside. Incidentally, Macbeth’s Castle on the hilltop here is not a Norman structure as often represented pictorially; it is an ancient hilltop fort or “dun.” The Stone of Destiny is believed to have been hidden on Dunsinane Hill at one time.

To the west of Windy Ghoul (Kinnoull, Perth), there is a cave called the Dragon’s Den—so named since the sixth century when Brude, the Pictish king, slew a dragon there as a sort of friendly gesture to St. Serf. In the 16th century great numbers of people used to assemble here on the first of May to celebrate a festival, distinctly pagan in character, but it was eventually forbidden by law.

The legend of the brave Hays of Errol, and how their gift of land from a grateful king was fixed in extent by a falcon’s flight, was a tale known to Shakespeare.

Tales of Sir William Wallace are always full of action. He was often at Kilspindie in his youth, and it was there he fled (resting on the way at Longforgan) after slaying young Selby, son of the English Governor of Dundee. Kilspindie also has a tale of a Green Serpent, and a bridge that is haunted by a ghost.

Invergowrie is a very old village, one of the most ancient in the Carse of Gowrie, and it claims to have had the first Christian church on the north side of the Tay. Apparently, the Devil was so enraged by this “slap in the face” that he began hurling stones across the Tay at the new building. Two fell short and became known as the “Goors, or Yowes, of Invergowrie.” A third over­shot its mark by half a mile, and is now known as the Deil’s Stane.

Thomas the Rhymer has a prophecy about these stones:

When the Yowes o’ Gowrie come to land
The Day o’ Judgment’s near at hand.

With so many historic castles, abbeys, chapels and so on, Tayside has its fair share of traditional ghosts. Ladies dressed in either green, grey or white seem to predominate. Usually they haunt (by moonlight) the precincts of some building of long history, singing or wailing softly and with great sweetness or melancholy.

Stonehaven has its Green Lady. Lethnot and Kilspindie have White ones. The ghost of Ethie Castle (near Inverkeilor) seems to change her dress with every appearance. She is said to walk the high-walled gardens of this castle, and at one time was believed to warn the head of the family of an approaching death. The ghost of Cardinal Beaton is also said to haunt a narrow, tortuous stone stair which leads by a secret doorway into the ‘Cardinal’s bedroom.'

The legends of Red Castle and Black Jack’s Keep rival those of Sir Ralph the Rover and the Inchcape Bell.

The tale of Tam Tyrie tells of a piper, accompanied by his wife and dog, taking shelter in a cave on the coast about three miles from Arbroath. He was never seen again, but the droning of his bagpipe music was heard for for several
days afterwards under the hearth of Dickmontlaw farmhouse, which lies well inland from the sea. This may well have been a tale :put out by smugglers for the purpose of frightening people away, for at one time there was a good deal of smuggling hereabouts, and no doubt the caves were used for hiding goods and as boat-houses. Ethiehaven was another smugglers’ haunt; it was also called Torrenshaven, and some have associated it with early Scandinavian raiders and their god Thor.

Salutation Hotel, Perth, Scotland. A guest since 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to haunt the hotel.

Haunted Scotland This is a collection of stories gathered from all over Scotland. In his search for ghosts, the author has travelled to haunted castles and mansions, battlefields and hostelries from the Borders to the Highlands and Islands. This book graphically records the "true" hauntings. Castles and mansions, it would seem, are not the only domain of these phantoms. The stories reveal ghostly apparitions and activities on wartime airfields, factories, caravan parks and even a North Sea oil rig. The stories include the teenage boy who was pursued by a ghost, the family terrified by a faceless phantom and the hooded spectre who drove a young couple from their dream home.

Aberfoyle, Scotland. The Rev Robert Kirk, the local minister, was an authority on fairies and often conversed with them on the Doon Hill. He was found dead in his nightshirt there one night in 1692. Afterwards he appeared in ethereal form, looking for help in escaping the fairy world. He has now been turned into the tall pine which grows on the hilltop.

Byre Theatre, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Reputed to be haunted by a friendly ghost named 'Charlie', believed to be the spirit of Charles Marford, a former manager, writer, producer director and actor at the theatre. His presence is heralded by a sudden drop in temperature, and has been felt by cast and crew alike, particularly on the stairs leading to the Green Room.

Crawford, Scottish Borders. The course of Watling Street, runs through the village of Crawford. Witnesses have reported seeing ghostly Roman soldiers marching along the street in the middle of the village. As the road level has risen over the centuries, in recent times the soldiers have been seen only from the knees up.

Culloden Battlfield, near Inverness, Scotland. On April 16,1746 the ragged, weary and half-starved army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was crushed on this bleak sleet slashed moor Culloden. The last major battle fought on British soil lasted less than an hour. The Highlanders numbering some 5,000 lost between 800 and 1,200 troops with many more cut down in the chaotic retreat to Inverness. Little surprise then that Culloden has been the location for a legion of supernatural sightings. These include a battleworn Highlander materialising next to the memorial cairn. A tourist looked into the Well of the Dead and was shocked to see a Highlander staring back at her. A dark haired Highlander in Stewart tartan has also been seen on one of the grave mounds.

Culross Abbey, Fife, Scotland. The remains of a Cistercian monastery founded in 1217. A secret tunnel was said to lead to a room full of gold, looked after by an old man. A piper and his dog were sent in to investigate the tunnel  a short time later the dog came out terrified; the piper was never seen again, although, his music can sometimes be heard.

Discovery Point, Dundee, Scotland. The Royal Research Ship Discovery is said to be haunted. Footsteps and other disturbances have been heard. Some think it maybe the ghost of Ernest Shackleton or Charles Bonner, who fell to his death from the crow's nest in 1901.

Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, Scotland. A plethora of ghosts including a Grey Lady, a girl who haunts the garden and King Duncan I.

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich, Scotland. The spirit of a Spanish soldier is said to haunt the castle.

Ethie Castle, Angus Scotland. Resident ghosts include the Abbot of Arbroath David Beaton, a Grey Lady and a child pulling a wooden car.

Falkland palace, Fife, Scotland. A favourite hunting lodge of the Stuart monarchs. Falkland Palace is said to be haunted by a White Lady who has been sighted in the window of the Tapestry Gallery, weeping for her lost lover.

Frendraught House, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Lady Elizabeth Gordon, the wife of Sir James Crichton, is thought to haunt the castle.

Glencoe, Scotland. On the anniversary of the Glencoe Massacre, 13 February 1692, the Glen is haunted by ghosts who re-enact the massacre. The screams of men and women can be heard throughout Glencoe.

Globe Inn, Dumfries, Scotland. Said to be haunted by Robert Burns' mistress.

Killiecrankie, Perthshire, Scotland. On 27 July 1689, the Pass of Killiecrankie saw the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Dundee defeat government forces in the first Jacobite campaign. Reports of ghost soldiers, some dead, some still fighting, have been recorded It is said that a red glow covers the area on the anniversary of the battle. The area is also reputed to be haunted by the drifting head of a woman, murdered on the site during the 17th century.

Iona Abbey, Scotland. One night a member of the modern Iona community approached the beach and saw a Viking raiding party strike down a group of monks and then return from the abbey with its treasures, just one of the many apparitions and strange visitations on the isle.

Sandwood Bay, Scotland. Sometimes referred to as 'Scotland's most famous open air ghost', a bearded sailor, strides across the sands of Sandwood Bay, located to the south of Cape Wrath. The apparition, clad in sea boots, sailor's cap and brass-buttoned tunic, has been seen by walkers, fishermen and crofters alike. This old phantom sea dog is also known to haunt a nearby uninhabited cottage.

Spedlins Tower, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Haunted by an unseen human entity, a 16th century baker who was mistakenly left to starve to death in a dungeon.

Sligachan, Isle of Skye, Scotland. The main road in Sligachan has been the haunt of a motorised spectral appearance.  For many years this supernatural speedster has frightened a number of unfortunate drivers who had been forced to pull over as a bright light approached them at high speed from behind and then vanishes into thin air as the ghostly vehicle hurtles past them.  Latterly, this mysterious car has been identified as a 1934 Austin Seven.

Spynie Palace, Elgin, Scotland. Haunted by a phantom piper and the ghost of a lion.

Tay Railway Bridge, Dundee, Scotland. On December 28,1879, a fierce storm battered Dundee. Such was its ferocity that the Tay Bridge engineers feared for the safety of the structure. They contacted the railway authorities to alert them to the danger but it was too late. A train had already started to cross the bridge and it plunged into the icy river below as the structure collapsed under its weight, 75 people lost their lives.

Thainstone House, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The daughter of a former owner of the house, who was killed, horse riding accident, is said to haunt one of the bedrooms.

Thunderton House, Elgin, Scotland. Said to be haunted by Bonnie Prince Charlie and the ghost whose dying wish was to be shrouded in the sheets the prince had slept in during his short stay there.

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